Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Carmen my new Canadian friend

The moonlight on the water

Kiran conquering the (small) rock climb

Kiran and me

More Hampi lake pictures

The lake in Hampi

Shalom??? WTF!

As I may have mentioned before there are many Israelis who come to India. The flight is only about 6 or 7 hours and it's comparable to North Americans going to the Caribbean. Anyway they don't have the best reputation here, because they come and do drugs and sometimes can be unfriendly. It's not always the case, but it happens a lot.

Apparently I look like an Israeli girl. It's not a bad thing as most are pretty or even beautiful. But it has happened so many times in the last few days, it's almost become annoying.

Yesterday I was walking by a shop and the Indian shopkeeper said "Shalom, come and see my store." I turned to him and said "Shalom? I'm Canadian and not from Israel." He looked confused and said, that he was so sure I was an Israeli girl.

Not too much happening here in the way of blog worthy notes. There is a beautiful lake in Hampi that is clean and totally swimmable and Kiran and I went by motorcycle the other evening, for the sunset. It was gorgeous, and I took a few pictures, I'll add them in a separate post.
Tomorrow we cross the river for Kiran's Spanish friends birthday party. Once you cross the rive you can't come back until the next day as the last boat stops at 6pm (although Kiran has some connections as we crossed at 8:30pm last time). The other side of the river is quiet and almost all tourists/travelers, so I don't go over very often. Carlos the Spanish friend, is a rock climber and he has been teaching Kiran how to rock climb. So it will be interesting to see what this party will be like. Hampi is so tame, so we'll see.

I also met a great Canadian girl from Alberta, who has just finished teaching English in Japan for 2 years, and took 3 months to travel before heading back home to Canada. So I have spent some time with her the last few days. She unfortunately leaves tomorrow.

Other than that, just chilling out, enjoying the beautiful town of Hampi and playing with some very cute Indian children.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pictures of Fort Cochin (a few from Hampi)

A family of three on a small motorcycle in Cochin

An elephant being bathed

Our lunch on the backwater tour

The backwater houseboat

Kathakali performance Cochin

Joseph sipping freshly squeezed orange juice in Cochin

The Chinese fishing nets in Cochin

The juice bar by the water


Kathakali performance

Me in front of a temple in Hampi

Friday, November 23, 2007

Update: Where I am!

Just wanted to let everyone know what my plans are.....a few things have changed.
Joseph and I decided to split up as he wanted to go to a tea plantation in Kerela called Munnar. Although I was interested, an opportunity presneted itself that I didn't feel I could pass up.

There is a place in Hampi called the Hampi Children's Trust, it is an orphanage and they need volunteers to teach the children English, help them with homework, make their dinner, help them get ready for school etc....
Kiran, volunteers there, and teaches the kids sports and English, and when I mentioned my plans to do my masters and needing more volunteer work he said he could speak to the owner, and get me in to do some volunteering.
Ever since I have arrived in India I have wanted to give to the country in some way, I just have this need to do some good, and this seems like as good a time as any. Plus I love Hampi (and most people I meet love Hampi as much as I do and is their favourite place). I would love to travel some more throughout India ( and I definitely plan to), but I think this is too good an opportunity to pass up. I am hoping to volunteer a few hours a week and it could turn out to be a lot more than that.
A quote I read in a book once came to mind when I made this decision to come back to Hampi and it is "luck only happens when fate gets tired of waiting." So I took this as a sign that this opportunity presented itself to me for a reason.

So I'll be spending my days with monkeys and ruins, and children with no parents, who need me more than I need to travel through more of India. I've made great friends here in Hampi and so seeing friendly faces everyday makes it an easy decision to make.

So I arrived in Hampi this morning, after taking a short and cheap 45 minute flight ($40) from Cochin to Bangalore, and then a 10 hour night train to Hampi. It's definitely a different experience traveling on my own, but I love the freedom and most of the people I meet are very friendly and eager to help.
Last night I shared the sleeper car with 5 older Indian men who snored through the night and kept me awake. But they were nice and kept the staring to a minimum.
I made it safely, and Kiran's brother was waiting for me to take my bag and reward me with a hot cup of coffee. (Kiran was at the banana plantation working and met me later in the day).

So that is the story so far. Will try to upload pics from Cochin in the next few days......

Hope everyone is well and enjoying the recent snowfall. Muwahahaha!!! It's a gorgeous 28 degrees here (and cools down to a nice 16-17 degrees) at night.
Not missing the cold weather at all!!!

And lastly, wishing my sister and her husband an awesome honeymoon. They leave Sunday to the gorgeous heavenly island of St. Lucia. Have fun you two!!!! Make sure to leave the hotel room a few times too ;)

Oh and really lastly, I want to congratulate my good friend Wendy. Her and her husband Eric welcomed a 6 pound 7 ounce baby boy into the world on November 14th after practically no labour. His name is Kyle James Hodson! Congrats Wendy and Eric. And welcome to this wild and crazy world little Kyle.

By the way, if you have an y question you want me to answer or more things you want me to cover, please add a comment with the question. I'll try to answer as best I can.

warm hugs and kisses........

Indian men - just like chicks, and not metrosexual either!

I am going to try to explain my experiences here as best as I can, and try to remember some of the best conversations I have had with young Indian men.
If I lived in India, I am sure all my friends would be men. They rock!

First of all, Indian men are very direct and open about their feelings, it doesn't matter what they are, sex, love, marriage, friendship, western women, Indian women...I've had a conversation about all these topics many times with many Indian men.

First off, when I first meet Indian men, they ask the obvious and monotonous four questions, "What is your name, where are you from, how old are you, and are you married? I always laugh at them and ask them if these answers are even important. And they admit they really aren't other than my name. So I never give them an answer which usually drive me nuts (just to toot my own own horn many Indian men think I am about 24 or 25).

In India, most women get married very young, after they turn 18 they are considered marrying age. Many of the middle class women go to University first, but have an partner who is arranged for them to marry once University is over. If the family is poor, the women usually marries after she turns 18 and the family may arrange the marriage. However, unlike what most people think, the girl has the choice to say yes, or no to the possible suitor.
Most Indian women don't date, and can't stay out very late. So the Indian men, love meeting and hanging out with foreign girls as we are open, can go out and have a beer with them, or just hang out and have good conversation. And yes, it happens where foreign girls have sex with Indian men, and I am sure that's on the mind of most of the Indian men when they do befriend a westerner. But that is like most men anyway, I would think. Plus Hollywood movies haven't done a great job in portraying us white girls. So Indian men think we are easy (not just Indian men most Asian cultures actually). So we just have to set them straight.

Joseph and I have had many good conversations with Ramesh and Kiran about everything I mentioned above. And I have been told I am very direct, (and they love it although they usually blush madly). My first question is always, do you want your parents to find you a wife? And I think the majority of the time, the men say they want a love marriage. I ask them the obvious questions if they are allowed to marry a westerner (and all have said yes) that is not a problem. This might be more true for the men, as opposed to the women. As I haven't had one single conversation with an Indian woman about this.
While living in Korea you saw many white guys with gorgeous Korean women, and it is exactly the opposite here. I have seen western girls (French, Canadian, English, German, Dutch) with gorgeous Indian men, and they might get a few stares now and then, but it doesn't seem to be an off limits thing here.

While in Cochin, I went to a jewellery shop where the guy working was about 24 years old, and from Kashmir (up north). And while buying jewellery we got to talking about stuff. Actually it was 2 Indian guys, Joseph and me (as always I am usually the only girl and I am getting quite used to it). Adil (the shop keeper) asked if we wanted tea and to stay and chat with him, and we did. We chatted about homosexuality, transsexuals, love marriage, like 4 chicks, over tea. OK I am a chick but they aren't and I loved every minute of it. Adil even picked out the ankle bracelet and I ended up buying, while telling me that if he had a wife, this ankle bracelet would be the one he would like her to wear. Who can argue with that (I bought it after I bartered him down to a good price) Friend or not, I still want a fair price.

A funny story Adil shared with us went something like this (and remember I had just met the guy about a half an hour earlier) but apparently we were now best friends.

A few months back, this woman came into his shop and she was dark skinned (black he thinks), and he said " he had attraction with her." She wanted to buy a Saree, and as he was helping her with the Saree, something in the front of her moved. He stepped back and then looked at her hands, and he said "hands were very very big, like hands of a man." Then he said to me with the straightest face "how can that be, I make attraction with her but she has a man's part. I think maybe I am gay."
Trying not to laugh too hard, I told him that didn't make him gay and that his reaction was normal. Poor Adil. But what I loved about it, was his honesty and openness to the situation.

Another thing I have also noticed about Indian men, is that they actually appreciate and find a woman more attractive when wearing Indian clothes. But the looks you get wearing a Salwar or Saree is different than the looks you would get wearing revealing western clothes. The night I went to the Kathakali performance, I decided to wear the Salwar I bought in Mumbai. It's a pink top that goes about mid-thigh with gold and blue flowers. I bought gold baggy Salwar pants and a gold scarf to go with it (which you have to wear to finish the look). I got so many approving looks, and some guys on a bike actually said "Nice salwa" (short for Salwar Kameez). The guys at the guesthouse gave me a thumbs up when I left for the performance, and told me I looked stunning. I actually felt kind of frumpy at first, but after the evening was over, I definitely felt more exotic. I even rode on teh back of a motorcycle in it, scarf flying and all!!

Adil told me that he would show me how to tie a Saree, but he warned me that all the men would follow me if I wore one, as a beautiful western girl with a Saree would attract many Indian men. Adil is also probably one of the best looking Indian men I've seen. He has light northern skin and hazel eyes. So the compliment was definitely flattering. (Joseph took a picture of us two guys and me shooting the shit) when he sends it I will post.

And that brings me to attraction and looks and personality. Almost all the Indian men I have met seem to be more interested in personality than looks. Sure they check out a hot girl, but their idea of what is beautiful is definitely different than what western ideas are. A kind and caring person, may attract an Indian man, more than a hot blond babe. Also body types here vary, as Indian women seem to be of all different shapes and sizes. Yes many are smaller, but not all of them, and Indian men seem to appreciate all body shapes and sizes.

Also, sex is a question that comes up often and Indian men are not shy about asking very direct questions. I usually say "hey, isn't this the place that invented the Kama Sutra? You guys should be giving us a lesson or two."
Ramesh answered this one the best, as he said "Yes, we invented Kama Sutra, but we have no one to practice it on, as Indian women want to be virgins until marriage. Or so they say anyway."

Sorry Ramesh....but you can't practice on me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Random Pics

Joseph took these pictures of me in Hampi and I thought I'd post. The first one is us in the basket boats crossing to go to the Hanuman (monkey) temple, and the second two is with the monkey on my shoulder.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fort Cochin Kerala - and wow is it hot!

Joseph and i arrived after 2 really long days of traveling. But we both slept much better the second time on the night train. It was about 12 hours from Bangalore to Cochin and I slept about 8hours.
Total travel time from Hampi to Cochin was about 22 hours train time.

We arrive at about 5:20 am, and we both were able to see the sunrise crossing the ferry from Ernakulam to Fort Cochin. The ferry cost was $25 cents for about a 15-20 minute ride). Luckily, Kiran, called up a friend in Cochin who owns a guesthouse and reserved Joseph and I a room with them. Kiran also arranged for us to be picked up at the boat jetty once we crossed over. When I met Kambu, the owner of the gueshouse he told me that Kiran had asked him to take good care of me (and Joseph). So we were given the royal treatment.

Kambu took Joseph and I to the travel agent where we arranged our next legs of our journeys, and Kambu specifically asked the agent not to charge commission, since I was a friend of a friend. Then after Jospeh and walked around in the ridiculous heat, Kambu picked us up and took us for a seafood dinner. Here, you can buy your seafood ahead of time fresh, right out of the sea and they deliver it to the restaurant to be cooked. Joseph and I both had tiger prawns cooked in a spicy Keralan curry. I washed mine down with a $.40cent Kingfisher beer. Yum!

Last night Joseph and I went to a traditional Kerelan Kathikali performance, that has been around in the south for about 350 years. It is about facial expression, hand and body gestures and song. It was beautiful and when I have a chance I'll post some pictures and hopefully the video I took.
Afterwards we stayed for the Indian classical music performance. I am not going to lie, it was great, for about 10 minutes, and the last 50 minutes I pretty much bored out of my mind. I could appreciate the drums and flute, but it's just not my thing. Joseph really liked it and went to see another music performance this evening which I think is north Indian and they are playing the sitar.

Today Joseph and I went on a day long backwaters tour. We took a bamboo boat and went in the small water canals and visited the villages and a learned about spices, and saw elephants being bathed. We also had a delicious lunch of fish curry served with rice on a banana leaf. we also had this dessert that I remember eating in my first year university. My ex-boyfriend's parents were born in Kerala, and his mother used to make me this dessert with rice and sweet milk and cashews, and I loved it, but never knew the name or ate it again after we broke up. But I had it today and it was as sweet and tasty as I remembered it to be, way back when my taste buds weren't quite so adventurous. I also tried coconut beer today, it has 8.4% alcohol, and it was actually quite refreshing and tasty. I only had a sip though because I didn't want to be hammered on the boat trip.

It was an enjoyable day, relaxing and the scenery was gorgeous, but it was so hot! Not as hot as Mumbai (I can't even explain that heat), but it's so humid here. It is about 33 or 34 degrees but feels something like 38-40c. Your cltohes just stick to you. Luckily I bought some light Indian fabric and it has been a life saver.

Tonight, Joseph and I had dinner with Kambu, although I ate toast. I find it so difficult to eat or even have an appetite when it is this hot. All I want to do is lay down under a fan. Air conditioning is not available in th eplaces you pay $6 a night for, but a fan is usually fine. Jospeh and I actually avoid AC, as it is difficult to get used to the heat if you are always going back and forth. The trains we take have no AC but we can open the windows and there are fans. We find our selves a little chilly sometimes too. I
t's nice to just chill out for a bit as the last 3 nights have been spent either on a train or running around to a Kathakali performance.

I like Cochin, and you can tell how different it is from other parts of India. There is less poverty here, and people here seem to live in nicer homes and drive nice cars. It's not my favourite place and I doubt I'll want to spend too much more time here, but I am enjoying the people. the culture and water, and I am very glad to have experienced it.

Tomorrow we'll probably take it easy, go out to a waterfall, do some shopping and buy some fresh lobster and have it cooked up for us Keralan style.

I am now going to go stick my head under cold water and lay under a fan. I guess I don't want to complain too much since I am sure most of you are freezing your asses off at home.

Next up: Indian people (namely men). How they differ from Western men, and why I think they rock!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A nothing day- but it felt great

Joseph and I didn't do much today in Bangalore. We both slept pretty crappy on the night train. There is a lot of people sleeping on bunks at the same time, so there is snoring, crying kids, and a lot of moving around in general. But for about $4 to get from Hampi to Bangalore and another $4.50 to get to Cochin, there isn't much to complain about. I'm spending about $25 a day here and in Hampi is was sometimes less. That is including sleeping in a guest house.

After internet and lunch I found a salon and got a wash and conditioning, a trim and a blow dry. it felt great after the night of traveling, and my hair was looking pretty gross and dry. It cost me about $13 which is actually expensive in my opinion, but I didn't have time to look around for better prices. Plus being in a bigger city the prices are a little more expensive.

So now we are at the train station waiting for our train, and not exactly looking forward to the 12 hour journey ahead. We are both sure it will be more like 14 hours. But that's ok, I can do some reading and hopefully catch up on sleep. Tonight might be the night to bring out the earplugs. I've been sleeping amazing, and I doubt I'll have any issues falling asleep on the train tonight, now that I know what to expect. The rocking of the train or bus usually lulls me right to sleep.

Well, time to maneuver myself with my backpack to my platform, while a million eyes gawk at me, like I'm the first white chick they've ever seen. It's not so bad in Bangalore, and I'm getting used to keeping my head held high and not looking around too much.

Next up: Fort Cochin in Kerela!!


Just a short post to do some catching up, while we are waiting to take our train to Fort Cochin tonight. Joseph and i had our first experience on the train last night as we took a 10 hour train ride to Bangalore and now have to wait until 5pm to catch yet another 12 hour train ride to the southern tip of India.

So we have some time to spare here in Bangalore, with nothing much to do but catch up, look around, re-stock on a few items that we can only find in larger cities and eat some delicious food.

Bangalore has become the hub of the high tech industry in India and is quite developed. From the little time I have spent here, I can say I prefer it to Mumbai. Perhaps it is because it is cooler here, and not so freaking chaotic. Many foreigners live and work in the high tech industry here. I also hear English spoken more often than Hindu or Karnata language (as this is the Karnataka state).

Just a quick update on how our dinner went with Ramesh. He picked Joseph and I up in his rickshaw and took us to his modest home he built himself and finished only 4 more months ago. Kiran met us later as he had to take care of some things at the restaurant.
When we arrived, we entered a cement home that was brightly coloured on the inside, with red, blue, and orange. It sounds loud, but it works. There was a small kitchen, an attached bathroom, and alarge living area where we sat on the floor. Ramesh is now saving more money to furnish the place. But Joseph and i were immediately comfortable and humbled to be there.
Ramesh did have a great stereo, and he had the new Justin Timberlake CD that a girl from England had sent him that he had never listened to, so I told him, that I would bring some of my culture to him and show him how to dance Canadian style to some good ol' "Sexy Back" So that's just what I did. I was wearing an Indian Salwar Kameez, a bright pink top with 3/4 length sleeves, that went down to about mid-thigh, and white cotton pants. I finished off the outfit with large silver earrings and a chunky silver bracelet I bought in Goa. I got so many compliments about the way I was dressed, and I felt so exotic.
Anyway, Kiran had arrived and I proceeded to dance around Ramesh's house and making Ramesh's little neices laugh (who were there visiting).

For dinner, Ramesh's sister, Geeta cooked an amazing chicken curry (spicy) with chapati and rice. Chicken is expensive in India and it was a big deal for them to serve us meat. So we ate on the floor with metal plates, and it was the first time I ate rice with my hands. We mixed the hot curry with some spiced curd to cool it off and used our hands to bunch the rice together and push it into our mouths trying not to let the food touch your Palm and using you thumb to move the rice forward into your mouth. It's very difficult, but I managed. In India they believe that food should not only be tasted but felt as well, and it part of their culinary experience. I didn't leave a scrape of food on my plate, even though I was so full. Ramesh works so hard to provide for himself and his sisters that I would have felt rude to leave even a speck of food on my plate.

All in all it was an amazing experience, and I am so honoured to have been able to experience it. Many people I met were so jealous that we had been invited because it is truly a cultural experience.
I rode back on the back of Kiran's motorcycle while Ramesh drove Joseph back in the rickshaw. Don't worry Mom and Dad, the motorcycle does not go very fast and there is not much traffic!
The mornings and nights were cool in Hampi, and I usually had to wear a long sleeve top. It is so refreshing after the disgusting heat in Mumbai and the dry heat in Goa. The climate is perfect. Although the Indians find it very cold and you see many of them wearing tuque's. It's funny actually.

Anyway, now I am going to do some shopping in Bangalore. I am glad I get to see the city, but don't think it's a place I'd want to spend much more time in. The cities are places I don't care to miss.

Fort Cochin in Kerela will be nice experience, once we get off the train we have to take a ferry to our destination, and hope to do a backwaters tour (where we see the villages along the water) and to see some traditional Kerelan dance performances. I should be in Cochin until Thursday.

Now, I have to go and dodge traffic and do some bartering for jewellery!!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pictures: Hampi

Joseph with all the kiddies on our way back from Kiran's banana plantation, my dear friend Ramesh at his place for dinner, a monkey and Hanuman temple.

More Hampi pictures

Here are some more Hampi pictures. A monkey, me on the 600 stair climb up to Haniman temple, Hanuman temple, and the basket we used to cross the river. It was a fun ride over, even though they ripped Joseph and I off!!
The last picture is of Abbey and I at the rooftop restaurant, he is a sweet little boy (I know Joseph and I thought he was a little girl) but we've seen the proof as his pants had a hole in them. Anyway, his Mom works at Kiran's restaurant and he really took a liking to Joseph and I as we would play with him a lot.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Best compliment EVER!

Today, I received the best compliment I have ever had.

Kiran told me, I was one of the kindest people he has ever met. He told me that I talk to anyone regardless of them being rich or poor, young or old, and that I was almost too polite. He said when I walk in the room, I brightened it up with my genuine smile and pure heart.

His words almost made me cry and all I could say was thank you.

After feeling so bloody useless in my job and with life at home in Ottawa, his words lifted me up and gave me hope.

And for those of you who fear travel because of the language barrier. All you really need is a smile to communicate. It's really not that difficult.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

History of Hampi and Itinerary changes

On Tuesday morning I woke up to the sound of Joseph being sick in the bathroom. It seems the "holy" water at the Hindu temple we were served in our palms and was supposed to drink made him sick. That's the only thing we can think what it was. As we shared the same meal at dinner but I pretended to drink the holy water at the temple and Joseph trying not to be rude sucked it back like a good soldier. The next morning, he was paying the price.

So I got dressed, grabbed my book and headed to our local rooftop restaurant for some chai, and to read peacefully and enjoy the quiet in the early morning. Not too long afterwards, Kiran, the manager of the restaurant started to talk to me, asking if I slept well and how I was. I asked him to join me and we got along right away and had plenty to talk about. This lead to a couple of hours of conversation about Canada, and his travels, and languages, and his university education. Then he told me he was learning French, he already speaks 5 languages (including Hindi and English), so he thought maybe learning French would be fun. So he brought out his French books and we practiced French for a little while. He then taught me a few words in his mother tongue which is Kanata language.

Kiran studied history and archeology in a university not far from his home in Hampi, and now he is helping his mom run the family business (guesthouse, restaurant and travel agency). He also owns stocks in a banana plantation and often goes there to do some work and make sure things are going well.

Knowing that Joseph was sick he offered to show me around some of the ruins in Hampi, and another German couple joined us as well.

Kiran has given me a history lesson on Hampi which I find quite interesting and thought it would be nice to share this info.

Hampi was once a powerful Shiva kingdom in the 12th and 13th century where courtesans entertained kings, silk markets were in abundance and temples and palaces covered the countryside. Hampi was the main Hindu kingdom in all of southern India. Then a civil war ensued with the Muslims in the 13th century and after 200 years of fighting the Muslims won. Then Hampi became the forgotten empire. Grass grew between the walls of the monuments, and all the temples lost their shape and starting to corrode and crumble. The Indian government turned a blind eye to the devastation and forgot about Hampi.

It wasn't until 1983 that Hampi was recognized by UNESCO as an endangered historical site.. After this the Indian government recognized that Hampi could be a valuable place for tourism and decided to take action and begin to restore and excavate the ruins on Hampi.

Temples cover most of Hampi and I sit at the rooftop restaurant my view is a 140 metre temple where if you look closely enough you can see monkeys climbing and perching themselves on edge of the temple walls. Behind it are large boulders with Parthenon like structures with massive stone pillars. The landscape is probably one of the most beautiful I've ever seen, with golden ready to harvest rice paddies and banana tree (plantations) surrounding them.

The German couple went another direction to the elephant stables and Kiran and I walked towards the river where women bathe in the water and monkeys run free and temples and rock boulders that are a pink-ish red in colour, cover the land as far as the eye can see. Kiran and I sat with a few of the village people and had chai tea, and it was probably the best tea I had ever tasted. Perhaps it was the beauty of the place I was in, or the kindness Kiran had showed me by being my personal tour guide, or just for the sheer and utter peace I felt.

I bought a handful of the peanuts and fed the monkeys who gently took the shelled nut from my hand and even held my hand in the process.

We walked back to the town and I asked Kiran to take me to a good Masala Dosa restaurant. I've been dying for the south Indian treat since I had arrived. We went to tiny restaurant and the Masala Dosa was the best thing I had tasted. The crispy pancake was filled with onion, potato, rice and other spices, and Kiran told them to make it spicy for me, as they usually omit the spicy chillies for foreigners. But I like my food nice and spicy, and this did the trick.

Afterwards I sat in the restaurant talking to a myriad of travellers giving me advice on things to see and do in India. And this is when Joseph and I (who appeared for a short while to have some chicken noodle soup) decided to extend our stay in Hampi a few more days. Both of us don't just want to be tourists checking off our list as we go from place to place. We want to be travellers staying around long enough to get a feel for the people, and place and soaking in the atmosphere. I want to miss a place when I leave. And if you only spend a day or 2, you don't even have time to see enough and feel the place to miss it. If that means I don't get to see the north then so be it. At least I'll really be able to know the south and get a feel for the culture and get to see more things as well. 5 weeks is just not enough time. I have met people who have been here 4 or more months and they still feel they don't have enough time.

So we decided instead of leaving on Wednesday as planned, we cancelled our tickets and re-booked for Saturday. So tomorrow we leave by train via Bangalore (quick shopping stop) to Fort Cochin in Kerela.

In other news, Kiran has a friend who is a Hindu priest in training and he invited us to visit his Ashram. So we went a few nights ago and the place is scant, but he played some music from an Indian instruments while he sang Hindu songs for us. It was a great experience and not something most people get to experience if you don't meet the locals.

As for what I do in Hampi, my days are shanti shanti (which means relaxed) which is my favourite Hindu word that is known throughout the country regardless of dialect or language. It just rolls off the tongue. A couple times this week I went to the free yoga being offered on the roof of my guesthouse. It starts at 6am (YES 6am) and we meditate for a about 10 minutes and then go into some fun and somewhat intense yoga. I managed to do a headstand today and hold it for a few seconds without falling out of it. Kiran is the yoga instructor and spent time at an Ashram studying yoga and meditation. It absolutely beautiful watching the sunrise come over the mountains and temples while being outside in the cooler mornings exercising the body and mind. The monkeys even join us on the roof and sit and watch or try to steal whatever food or drink they can scavenge.
Then after tea and breakfast we usually walk around checking out temples and hanging out with friends or reading.

Yesterday Joseph and I went to a temple that had 600 stairs to climb before reaching it. It was about a 3km walk there and back and it was an adventure so much fun, crossing a river in round basket boats, dodging cows, and sheep. When we made it to the top, we were rewarded with breathtaking views of the town. It was absolutely gorgeous. Monkeys linger around waiting to be fed bananas or whatever else they can find. One monkey jumped on my head and enjoyed the view from up there, all while trying to put his hands in my bag. Then another monkey got on my back and wouldn't get off me, and even got angry at Joseph when he tried to pry them off me. I had to lay down on the ground and roll over. I did this all while laughing and not freaking out. They are very friendly, and very cute. Especially the babies.

Today, Joseph and I were lucky enough to be invited out to Kiran's banana plantation, it was quite a good opportunity and we were honoured to be asked. Joseph and I rented a scooter and Kiran had his grandfather on the back of his. So we made the 8km journey and enjoyed breathtaking views along the way. We stopped at a sugar cane factory where we got to see how they extract sugar cane and made it into a taffy like sweet that is used in most Indian desserts (cookies, rice cakes). Kiran took a bamboo stick and soaked it in the chewy sweetness and gave it to me to enjoy. It's has a nice natural sweetness to it, that was pleasant and not too over powering. Kiran's banana plantation was beautiful. Peaceful, out in the middle of nowhere with a river running in the middle of it. I thought of my father and knew he would love this place!!

As for this evening, our last before we leave Hampi, we have been invited to our Indian friend Ramesh's house for dinner. This is something I was hoping would happen, because this is how you get to see the real Indian culture. Ramesh is a rickshaw driver and is about 23 years old. He is friends with Kiran (who is 25) and comes around the restaurant a lot to visit. I am not sure how we got to talking to him, but I do know we all became fast friends, with me giving him advice on how to date a western girl, and him trying to talk me into moving to Hampi. So tonight I bought some Indian cookies and cakes to take to his place for dinner. Joseph and Kiran will be coming a long as well. Ramesh lives with his sister, and has asked me if I wanted to cook the chicken we are having for dinner. I told him I didn't come all the way to India to go to an Indians home and cook dinner when I'd much prefer a real traditional Indian dinner. Plus I am sure the chicken I would cook would be way to bland for them. The concoction of spices here are truly amazing!

When I left Canada life was pretty chaotic, with moving, the job, saying goodbye, etc...but I do have to say , I don't remember the last time I have been so at peace with myself, life and the way forward. It's true soul riveting contentment, happiness and peacefulness. I want to bundle up this feeling and tuck it away so I can keep it forever.
Life, for me, just doesn't get any better than this.

Here are pictures and Kiran and I, a monkey and some temples.

Chasing Monkeys and Climbing ruins

By the way, I have added pictures to my Mumbai post, and two Goa posts. I could only pick a few pictures, since it took a while to download. I don't want to spend my whole day at a computer.

On to Hampi....

Driving from the bus stop I couldn't stop starring. The ruins surround you everywhere you look, and the landscape is covered with old crumpling temples, boulders and rocky pillars. We've heard from many people we bumped into while traveling that Hampi was beautiful, we had no idea!!

Once we made our way into an area called Hampi Bazarre, where the narrow streets are filled with scooters, cows, Indian people saying "hello how are you" and tiny road side stalls selling chips, water and Indian biscuits. After looking at 3 different guest houses, we settled on Gopi guesthouse. Cold-ish water for showers was the small price to pay for this clean brightly coloured room. And for $12 a night ($6 each) we felt we got a good deal. After the 12 hour bus ride, we both just wanted a clean room in a safe area.

What Joseph and I encountered in India and mostly in Hampi is that many people work on the honour system. It's not a-typical for a restaurant owner to say "pay me later" or for the guy working at the small confectionery store to wave you off with a "next time" as you you rummage through your pockets for that 5 rupees and can't find it. After today's lunch at the Gopi rooftop restaurant we encountered that same thing, only this time we fill up a book with our room number with all our meals and pay when we leave. A very trustworthy culture, and Joseph and I don't want to take advantage of their trust and kindness.

The manager of the restaurant, named Kiran, extended a lot of kindness to us when we arrived and were getting hassled by the rickshaw mafia, as they like to call them in the guidebooks. He shooed him away and proceeded to inform us that Joseph and I had to register our passport and camera make and model with the local police station for our safety. We proceeded to ask why, feeling a little apprehensive as to what the answer would be. He told us that in 1998, there was a thief who was stealing cameras from unsuspecting foreigners. And so to protect our stuff and to retrieve our goods if stolen it is safer (and protects their tourism) if we register. We both found this reasonable enough and liked that there were steps being taken to ensure our safety.

The conversation that too place next went something like this:
Joseph: "What ever happened to the thief"
Kiran: " Oh, the police shot him in the leg when they found him"
Joseph: "So he was running away, right?"
Kiran: "No, no, he was sitting down. The cops just shot him in the leg."
Shelley and Joseph mouths open: "Really?"
Kiran nodding: "Yes, and when he was released from jail, the police planted 2kg of marijuana in his bag so that they could put him back in jail."
Shelley: "Where I come from, we call this corruption"
Kiran: "No not really, just keeping streets safe for people and tourists"

Isn't that hilarious!! Thanks Hampi, for your police corruption and for keeping things safer for me and other tourists. My Mom will be happy.

Isn't that just awesomely funny! I love culture differences. It's an education.

Up next: The history of Hampi, early morning yoga, Joseph getting sick off some dodgy Hindu holy water.

Good times!

These are some of the ruins at sunset time that is just behind our guesthouse. This is the view we have while sipping tea and eating nutella pancakes in the morning.

Love you and miss you all! But safe and having a blast!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cocktails and Dreams!

We started out the evening the same way we always did, by first going to dinner at one of the many beachfront restaurants. We also met an Israeli, named Guy, who works in Delhi who was in Goa for vacation. He turned out to be an idiot but more on that later.
There are many many Israelis in Goa.

We went to a cute little restaurant and sat on the beach on bright red leather couches. Candlelight was the only light source and the crashing waves was the soundtrack. We ordered appetizers and drinks and enjoyed the beachfront before moving upstairs to dinner.
For dinner we all got some kind of seafood curry and a beer is about 90cents CDN, to wash it all down as it goes great with spicy fish curry. Something in the beer breaks down the spice of the food so it makes it a good combination.

After dinner, as per our ritual, we all went to yet another restaurant where we ordered banofee pie and shared it. The banana/chocolate and graham cracker crumb dessert is so special that we ate it every single night without any guilt.
Then after we scraped our plates clean we headed to yet another place called Cocktails and Dreams (like in the movie Cocktail), they even had the same sign oin the back of the black t-shirt from the movie. Hilarious! This bar had fun music adn we usually went here for our one night cap before heading to bed. I am not sure what happened this night, as normally we all manage to have one drink and head back to our respective beach huts, exhausted after a full day of swimming, hot sun and lounging around.
But tonight went a whole other way, and I am so glad it did!

We found out from Guy, that the Estonians, were actually here to film a rock video with the star Airi, with her new single called monsoon. Although the rock star thing is pretty cool, the porn story had a much better angle, in my opinion. You can all find out a little more about Airi by clicking here. Look through her photo gallery, nice pictures but Joseph got some good paparazzo like shots of her, and we think we might be able to make a little money from them by selling them to some Estonian gossip magazine.

They happened to be in the bar that night and are always trying to be the centre of attention, and it was hard not to notice them with their heavy make-up, skimpy shiny clothes and loud demeanor. But tonight, I think our group got the party started and kept it going until the wee hours of the morning. The song Walk Like An Egyptian started and I was singing it and doing some fun Egyptian dancing while sitting down, as I was impressing my Swiss friends with knowing the fast English words. However, Airi took notice and from across the room in her heavy Estonian accent the said to me "hey, you, you want to dance?" I did not want to dance with her, as she dances super freaky and has no rhythm. I swear. I wish I had a video of her weird trance like dancing.
So, against all my better judgement I got up and danced with her, but I dragged Nadine up to dance with me. Airi later came to sit down with us and proceeded to mumble some words to us, the girl was as high as a kite. But she told us that she had 2 kids (10 and 5), and opened for the Rolling stones on their Eastern European leg of the Bridges to Babylon tour. She is 30 years old.

Afterwards, Nadine and I wanted to hear some Hindi music, Bollywood style, as we both find it extremely beautiful and fun to dance to. So I went to ask the DJ, who turned out to be very cute. He said he would only play some Hindi songs for us, if he could come show me some Hindi moves. Not one to pass up a good opportunity, I followed him to the EMPTY dance floor. My friends cheered and gave me encouragement while i followed his moves. I could see Jopseh taking pictures from the table, so I knew I had to pull out my best moves. I had no idea what i was doing, but it felt good, and it was fun! And boy could he ever dance!!!

After that, it got wild, everyone started dancing, including the Estonian crew, and also people from other bars down the beach came to the one we were at because they heard it was more fun. We danced, and danced and danced until about 4:30am, when Nadine and I thought we needed to take a swim in the Sea, since we were sweaty and hot from all the dancing.
We thought it was the best idea we ever had. So good in fact, that we could only get two other people crazy enough to come with us. Joseph, Marianne, Vahan, Anna and Guy had already left, although they lasted quite late.
So, Nadine, Pascal, and Paul (from England) and I went swimming. Paul and I had our swimsuits on already however, Nadine went in her under things and Pascal....well Pascal didn't seem to want to wear anything. Lucky us.
That swim lasted all of about 5 minutes as we couldn't see the waves coming in, and they would hit us when we least expected it. It made for some funny situations though.

As for, Guy, he left the bar without paying his tab, and had a creepy way about him. He is 39 and chasing after Nadine who is 23, and she made it very clear she was not interested. But Joseph took on the protective role and made sure Guy kept his distance. Nadine is the cutest little thing, and weighs about 100 pounds soaking wet. The boys love her. She has an energy about her that demands attention, although that might be the last thing she wants. She is humble yet she knows the effect she has on men. She is also one of the nicest people I have ever met while traveling, and she is very real, and honest. She is definitely wiser than her 23 years.

Anyway, so ended a fantastic time in Goa. A place i would go back to in a heartbeat and rivals any beach I have every been to, in that the culture is so rich and the prices are on the cheaper side so you can enjoy a much longer stay. The beach was a soft sandy white, and the sea was as almost too warm to be refreshing. Marianne, Joseph, Nadine and I also went dolphin watching that same morning and it was amazing. Our driver, sang a song to bring the dolphins out, which seemed to work, and I took a video of that. I hope to download some pictures to add to the blog soon. Hopefully in the next few days as things slow down for us a bit. We are currently in Hampi now and we are taking our time to enjoy the enigmatic scenery. It's like nothing I've ever seen before. Beautiful.

But more on Hampi in another post.

We are doing well, eating well, getting along great and falling in love with India. Just when you want to curse India and scream at her, you encounter a situation or see something that makes you forget the crappy stuff (such as the constant starring and all the pushy-ness to buy things, rent things, and give money) and fall in love with her all over again. The next few weeks will be a good test, as we finish the south and head north by early next week. The change from south to north is apparently astonishing. Like being in two different countries, so I am excited and anxious to experience all it has to offer!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Time to leave Goa!

I don't have much to write as I am on my way with Joseph to meet our Swiss friends for one last dinner before we leave. Actually our groups has expanded to another Swiss girl Marianne who is here on a 2 week holiday. She is great and we've all been having a blast.

I want to write about our last night out next time I post, as it was one of the funnest nights I have had. Just to give you a sneak peak, it involved drinks, dancing until 4:30am, a very late night swim in the sea, getting taught how to dance Hindu/Bollywood style by a very cute Indian bartender, and meeting and dancing with an Estonian rock star who happened to open for the Rolling Stones when they did their Eastern European tour.

NB ( the Estonian group we thought were here doing porn are actually recording a rock video) More on Airi the Estonian rock star later.

We are off to Hampi tonight an city with many ruins.

Stay tuned. I'm out of time.

Friday, November 9, 2007

A Typical day in Palolem Goa

I thought I'd give you a run down of what I have been doing in Goa, and I'll use yesterday as an example. Here is what I did in order of waking up to when I went to bed:

-Went for a run on the beach barefoot in the surf, listening to Jack Johnson. The sky was clear the sun was shining and it was hot!
-Went to the Internet to write my blog
-Went for breakfast with Joseph and ordered a spinach and cheese omelette, with Masala tea (chai tea) with honey
-Went to the beach to meet Nadine and Pascal (our friends from Switzerland) also with them was Pascal's friend Vaughn ( pronounced Waun) and his girlfriend Anna, he is Swiss and she is German.
-Rented boogie boards with Nadine and Joseph and proceeded to jump waves with them for an hour
-Got a sunburn
-Bought a Papaya from an Indian man carrying a fruit basket on his head. Proceeded to eat copious amounts of it.
-Played Frisbee with Joseph.
-Walked along the beach around sunset and took pictures of Indian children playing in the ocean, leaning palm trees, Indian boys playing cricket on the beach and men wearing speedos (I need proof and they are EVERYWHERE!!)
-Read my book while Joseph took more pictures
-Met Nadine and Pascal for a Gin and tonic and appetizers before dinner
-Joseph was tired and wanted to chill so I went with Nadine and Pascal to a restaurant on top of a large rock overlooking the ocean. Met Anna and Waugn.
-Nadine and I shared Dahl curry (lentils) and prawn masala curry with naan bread. I'll never tire of Indian food.
-We ordered Banofee pie to share between the 5 of us. Best dessert I ever had. Lots of chocolate, graham crumb bottom, ice cream and cream. Dee-lish.
-Had an in depth conversation with Pascal about ice hockey, all the while fireworks were going off and the waves crashed along the rocks. The Swiss love ice hockey!!
-Went to bed

And I plan to do it all over again today.
Don't be too jealous.

The only change in my day today will be renting scooters with Nadine and checking out some of the other beaches. One named butterfly beach. I'll let you know how that goes! The roads are small dirt roads here and not too busy. Don't worry Mom.
And I might have fish vindaloo tonight instead of dahl curry. I love that is pretty much the only thing I have to worry about; choosing which curry I want to eat and making sure I have enough 30 SPF sunblock on. Love it!

That's the only difficult part, we are starting out doing the beaches and will eventually move to more difficult travel once we head up north. So I might as well enjoy it now, as I am sure I'll be back to sweating up a storm with no sea to swim in soon enough.

The Estonians are the cast of characters I wanted to touch upon. These people scream attention! The girls walk around in string bikini bottoms, with loads of make-up on their faces. Yes, we are on a beach, but it is still India and you still have to be careful. Bikinis are one thing, string bikinis quite another. Now these women are mid-30's and wear sparkly hats and scarves on their head and demand attention. They are traveling in a group of about 16 men and women. The men wear leopard print speedos during the day with their bellies hanging over and run around playing Frisbee.
One of the women actually showed up at the restaurant/bar around 9pm still wearing her thong bikini bottom, and a see through Indian print top that only went to her thigh with her bikini top underneath, and proceeded to play pool. They also carry around a large movie camera (think professional movie camera) so very attention grabbing, and they act out scenes at the restaurant, dance to Indian drummers, and stand and sing songs during dinner. It's all really very bizarre. The four of us think they are making a porno movie. And we aren't even joking. You have to see it to believe it.
I am going to try to take pictures of them. They are a real riot, and they seem to be everywhere!! It's just too much.
I'm sure they are interesting to talk to, and Pascal is going to ask them where he can buy their movie. I hope I am around when he asks them, trying to keep a straight face will be difficult.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Goa- Just like Paradise! Except for all the Europeans in Speedos!

Goa is everything i thought it would and more. Beach huts line the white sandy beach, small business selling Indian clothes and beach towels, restaurants with open fronts face the ocean, that serve banana pancakes and Masala tea for breakfast, fish curry and veg curry for lunch and dinner. And Goan Banofee pie for dessert. Cows walk up and down the beach like they own the place, and technically in this mostly Hindu country, they actually do. The sunsets paint the sky red for hours and fall behind the Arabian sea. It's been bliss!However, getting to Goa was anything but bliss. But I don't want to over exaggerate either, it wasn't that bad!

Joseph and I took a sleeper bus to Goa and we were told it would take about 11 hours. Now nothing takes the exact time you are told in India, and in essence it took 15 hours! Just to give you an idea of what the roads are like, Goa and Mumbai are 500km apart - and it took 15 hours!
The bottom of the bus was like regular seats, and on top were a sort of bunk bed and that was just enough room for 2 regular size people to lay flat. There was about a half foot of room between my head and the ceiling. It took me about 20 minutes to get used to it, as it was sort of claustrophobic.

Luckily I slept most of the way. I was still dealing with jet lag so it was the perfect opportunity to catch up on sleep. We made a few pit stops for bathroom breaks a long the way, and it was a good opportunity to stretch. It was certainly not comfortable to not be able to move for that long.

But alas, we arrived in Goa around 11am, and then we had to take a taxi to Palolem which is at the southern tip of Goa. Joseph and I met Pascal from Switzerland in Mumbai, and he was also traveling with Nadine from Switzerland. Pascal met her traveling in China in August, and they split up while she went trekking in Nepal, and he went through northern India, and they decided to meet up again n Mumbai to go to Goa. Anyway, we shared a taxi to Palolem, and Nadine has been to Goa 3 times so she suggested we stay at Tony's Coco huts.

The huts are exactly what you would picture them to be. A rickety hut on stilts with a grass roof (with a tarp to protect from rain) a small bathroom and a hammock and porch out front. also when you sit outside you can see the Arabian sea. It's literally a stones throw away!

My days here consist of nothing more than eating awesome food, swimming in the Arabian sea (which is very warm), walking along the beach, reading in a hammock, sipping gin and tonics with our new Swiss friends and doing it all over again the next day!

The sun is hot and I am getting some colour, but the breeze from the sea ,makes everything a little more bearable! I have bought some nice beach wear as my clothes were not appropriate for the laid back beachy feel. Everything is very cheap, so it hasn't set me back at all!

As for the next leg of our trip, we plan to be in Goa until Sunday, this way we can go to the Anjuna hippie market on Saturday (which is 2 and a bit hours north in Goa). Joseph and I are taking the night bus to Hampi on Sunday night. We were told it would take 8 hours but we figure more like 10, taking Indian roads and time into account. But we are in no rush and kind of winging it as we go, which is perfect. We are glad we came to Goa first, as the prices are going to sky rocket as of next week when the high season hits, and this will last until New Years.

Anyway, Joseph and I are hungry and we are going to go and eat breakfast now. I went for a run along the beach this morning, so now the hunger is kicking in.

But before I go here are a few pieces of info/tidbits/facts for you to ponder:

-Goa was colonized by the Portuguese for 450 years, and only became part of India in the early 1960's. So the architecture here takes on a very European/Portuguese hacienda feel.

-Like north Americans go to Cuba/Mexico/Dominican, Europeans and Israelis come to Goa. It's much cheaper! In Palolem anyway there are no large 5 star resorts. Just beach huts with fans, that cost $5-$8 a night!!

-I have not met any Canadians or Americans in Goa (although our friend Sebi who works at the guesthouse says he has met many Canadian friends here. He loves Canada and Joseph and I get to eat then replant the top of the pineapple in the Canadian Pineapple garden (Only Canadians allowed). But I haven't heard a lot of English spoken here, as it seems to be mostly Swedish, Swiss, German, Farsi and French spoken. But it's great!!

Typical prices in Goa:
1 night in beach hut =400 rupees (rps) or $9.50 CND (next week price will double to 800 or 1000 rps ($20-$24)
Cup of tea= 15 rps or 30 cents
Breakfast of Banana pancake, fruit Muesli and 500ml of water= 100rps or $2.40 CDN
Gin and Tonic= 60 rps or $1.45
Indian dress= 300 rps or $7 ( bartered down from $10 to $7)
1 hour Internet= 40 rps or 90 cents.
Night bu to Hampi = 550 rps or $13.

Hope that gives you an idea of how cheap it is here. And it actually will cheaper when we head to Hampi and then eventually up north.

Hope all is well and I hope to post again soon, so I don't have so much to write!

Miss you all, but having a blast!!!

Oh and yes, I have seen way too many Banana hammocks here (AKA Speedos)! YUCK!

Next up: The cast of characters we have seen and met here. Some interesting, some not so much!

Monday, November 5, 2007

I can't drink enough water to keep up with the amount of sweat that is excreting from my body.

Thought you all should know.

Go, go, going, to Go-a!!

Quick update:

After writing my blog last night, I got to talking to a Swiss guy who has been bumming around India for a few months and told us that if we wanted to get out of Mumbai and to Goa we could take the bus. They have these new sleeper buses, that cost about $23 one way. The train would have cost a little bit more, but since they are all booked up Joseph and decided to save some money and brave the bus.

The Lonely Planet and Rough Guide both say that riding the bus in India is an adventure in itself. So I guess we'll see. The Swiss guy and his friends are taking the same bus, so at least there will be others feeling our pain. Apparently it is about a 13 hour journey, or perhaps longer.

I have wanted to go to Goa since I saw the Bourne Supremacy with Matt Damon. The place just looks like heaven, and we figure that a few days bumming on a hut on the beach will do us some good. Both Joseph and I can't wait to try the extra spicy Goan pork Vindaloo. Yummy!!!

Joseph is off at some guru's place to do some meditating or something like that. Sounded like fun, but I thought I'd pass. So I am going to brave Mumbai for a few hours by myself. I have gotten used to the starring already. Not much different than what I experienced in Korea.

That's another thing, the streets are crawling with mostly men. Every once and while you see a splattering of colourful saris amidst the crowd, but it is rare. So as you can imagine it is a little intimidating walking around. But I keep my head up and ignore the comments. Looking confident and like I know where I am going and what I am doing seems to work for me.

Today we plan to go to a Hindu temple and then go to the ghats where the women wash clothes in the Arabian sea. Should be interesting.

Well, I'm off to brave the heat and the gazillion of eyes waiting for me on the busy streets!!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sweating it up in Mumbai!

Well after about a million hours of travel I made it to Mumbai. My flights here were uneventful which is usually how I like to fly. I have to say I enjoyed flying Air France, the food was really good!
An elderly couple I sat beside on my way to Mumbai were Indian born in Madagascar but immigrated to Marseilles France. So I spoke French the whole 8 hour flight. I am not sure what made them think I was some kind of expert on India but they kept asking me all kinds of questions, like "is there a shuttle to take us to terminal 2" Ummm...I've never been to Mumbai. I was worried enough about how I was going to get out of the airport, but I was playing it pretty cool. It was nice they thought I was well traveled enough to count on me for answers. They told me more than once how much courage I had.

I am not sure what I was expecting when I landed in Mumbai, because I read that the airport would be crazy. But it was pretty tame ad I got through immigration smoothly and picked up my luggage without any hassle (although it was practically the last bag to come out). I was even starting to panic a little bit.

I walked out of the airport, and there it was. People. And heat. So many people, and the air was thick as a wool blanket. The smell was distinctly Asian and didn't bother me too much. It was about 2:30 in the morning and there were hundreds of people lined up outside the airport. I have no idea what they were even doing.
I bought my prepaid taxi ticket (a one hour ride cost me $8) and I found my cab. It was a small little car with a bucket seat in the back and no air conditioning. The driver was short man with very few words, but he took my ticket and started driving.

And this is when the experience started.

In Korea I always said that the red lights were stoptional. In India apparently the lines that separate the traffic are optional as well and my driver straddled it the whole drive. I never heard so many horns and thought I was going to crash so many times. But the funny thing is, I was pretty calm, and I was actually giggling in the backseat. I was in India. I couldn't believe it. Plus I had dealt with this stuff in south East Asia as well.
The drive opened my eyes to the poverty of India. Everywhere I looked I saw people, young and old, female and male sleeping on the streets. I know it may not sound peculiar, since we have homeless people in Canada. But they were everywhere, hndreds of them, families lying on dirty matts on the road, some were even sleeping on the top of their cars, legs twisted around each other for comfort.
Luckily I was just too tired to cry, because I wanted to.

Once I checked into my room, a small little guesthouse in Coloba (the backpacker district in Mumbai). I pretty fell into a dreamless sleep. Thankfully the malaria pills haven't kicked in yet to give me the vivid dreams.
The guesthouse is clean, with warm-ish water for showers, toast and tea for breakfast and surrounded by a gorgeous garden with palm trees. Also the delicious air conditioning is a luxury to most here in India, but worth the splurge.

Joseph showed up around 11:30am and it was like 2 years hadn't gone by since we'd seen each other. It was so nice to see him. We immediately started planning out our itinerary. Looks like we are going south for a week, then we'll head up to Goa and chill out on the beach before heading up north for the camel trek.
We set out in a cab to take us to the train station to book our train. Goa is a very popular destination, so we weren't sure we'd get a ticket. And we didn't. On Sundays most things are closed so we now have to go to plan B which is taking a cheap domestic flight. We plan to go to the travel agent tomorrow to set up the flight and train to Goa.
All we do know is we want to get out of Mumbai as soon as possible. It's crowded and the traffic is crazy, and we just want to get going on experiencing the real India. So we'll re-group tomorrow.

As for today Joseph and I did some exploring. We did a walking tour through old-colonial British India where the architecture is gorgeous. Old Gothic like churches and buildings surround the downtown of Mumbai. We even managed to stop and enjoy a few games of cricket that were going on in the park across the street.

We also stopped and ate an amazing vegetarian lunch. We ordered Thali which is a mixture of different things. We had a selection of mini-samosas and delicious chutney sauces to dip it in. Aloo Ghobi which is cauliflower and potato, a bean dish, dhal which is lentils in a curry sauce, and some sweet rice cakes for dessert.
We had some delicious chapati bread to serve up this amazing food. So healthy and you just feel satisfied after eating it.
In India you eat your food with your hands, but only your right hand because you left hand is used to rinse your backside in the washroom. I'm sorry if that is graphic, but this is a cultural blog and my experiences here are going to be honest and educational :)

I had no problem breaking the bread with my right hand and using it to scoop up my delicious curries. I think our meal cost us about $8 total, for the two of us. Which is actually expensive in India, but we were hungry and didn't want to scuttle around all over the place.

Afterwards Joseph and I bought some traditional Indian clothes. I am so hot here, it's ridiculous. Today the weather was 35 but felt like 42 with the humidity. Add smog and pollution to that mix and you get a nasty mess. So I bought a gorgeous Salwaar Kameez. The top is a nice bright pink that goes to about the knees, and so thin and airy, and the pants are gold and baggy, and comfortable. It comes with a gold scarf which I have to wear to finish off the outfit. I love it, and it will be so comfortable in this heat. I'll take pics and add them as soon as I find an Internet with a USB port.

So far I don't feel like the culture has kicked my ass. I am not overwhelmed or weirded out by anything. Yes, some things are different and the constant starring and pushy touts after us can get annoying, but after having already been around Asia, I'm not too shocked. It's only my first day, so I am sure I will have more to report about the culture soon. But I feel safe, and comfortable here so far. I love it, it's like nothing I have ever experienced before, and I know this adventure is going to change the way I see things.

Now I just want to get my butt out of Mumbai, and to a beach somewhere. We are hoping to get to Kerela and do a backwater tour. If you look at the first post I put up on the map Kerala is the city furthest south west.

Well, Joseph and I are going to go and get snacks and drink Chai. The jet lag is sinking in, but so far I've been ok. I avoid jet lag by not drinking any caffeine or alcohol on the flight. It usually works. Plus I plan my sleeping according the next destination.

We have an early morning tomorrow trying to book flights. I know, I have a rough life. It's a tough job being a world traveler.

Here are some pics of Mumbai, just come city shots. it takes a while to get pictures on here so I can only do a few at a time.